THE chief executive of the Western Trust has apologised to patients who have experienced delays in service.
Speaking at Thursday's monthly board meeting of the Trust, Neil Guckian said "unprecedented pressures" on hospitals meant that the Trust cannot provide service to the "standard we would wish to deliver."
These pressures have meant dozens of patients have waited in Emergency Departments (EDs) because there were no beds available
"The Trust is experiencing unprecedented pressure across a range of services," the health chief said.
The strain on acute hospital services, he added, is due to the "the combination of COVID patients, increased delayed discharges - primarily due to capacity/workforce issues in community services - and demand levels."
Mr Guckian said that on Tuesday of last week, November 2, Altnagelvin Hospital had 37 COVID patients and 44 patients in the Emergency Department with "decisions to admit but no bed available".
"Now, it has de-escalated since Tuesday but this is just a sequence that we are going through in recent weeks," he added.
Meanwhile, at South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) in Enniskillen there were 30 COVID patients with 20 patients with delayed admission.
The health chief said that the pressure on EDs is being replicated across all services.
"In addition to acute hospital services they certainly don't have the monopoly on pressure.
"Family and childcare social work services are also under extreme pressure due to vacancies, COVID absence and general sickness," Mr Guckian continued.
"This will impinge our ability to deliver our vital delegated statutory functions.
"Across a wide range of services we are struggling to maintain activity due to workforce shortages.
"I want to firstly apologise to all patients and clients who have experienced delays in service recently.
"This is not the standard we would wish to deliver.
"Finally, I want to thank staff across all programmes for their continued commitment and remind everyone of the support available should staff be struggling in any way."
Trust chairman, Sam Pollock, said board members are "very conscious of the unprecedented pressures that our staff are under both in hospitals and in the community."
He added: "Our biggest concern really is that it is only November and as the winter progresses through the difficult months, we are in no doubt the pressure that people will be under.
"As a board, I want to express our support to staff."